Cats gain revenge on Liberty and snap two-game losing streak in process
Heading into their matchup with the Mountain View/Birch Tree Liberty Eagles Sept. 24, the Thayer Bobcats were a hungry group of Cats.
Hungry for a win after getting hammered by Houston in week two, and hungry for a win after playing the number-two ranked Pierce City Eagles closer than the 20-point margin of their contest indicated last week.
But most important of all, the Bobcats were hungry for a win over Liberty after the Eagles stunned Thayer in overtime last year, marking the first time in a year that Liberty had recorded a win on the gridiron, and also marking the first time in quite a while that the Eagles had been able to pin a loss on the Cats.
Although the Eagles are a much improved group this year, as their 2-1 record heading in battle with Thayer proved, the Bobcats righted their ship by evening their season mark at 2-2 with a 21-12 victory over Liberty.
The Bobcats did it with defense early on, stopping two Eagle drives deep into Thayer territory with heads-up play in the first quarter.
"We made a couple of position changes with our guys on defense," Thayer Head Coach Billy Webber said. "I think that was a plus for us. We bent, but we didn't break."
With a fourth-and-10 from the Bobcat 12 on Liberty's first possession of the evening, Brett Ward wrapped up an Eagle ball carrier to prevent them from scoring.
Thayer couldn't put any points on the board on their first series, but their defense shined at the 3:00 mark of the quarter.
With Liberty holding shop at the Cat 29, Andrew Eckman pounced on a loose ball to once again deny the Eagles a chance at a TD.
The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, but Brett Ward made sure Thayer didn't exit the second quarter without denting the scoreboard.
A 27-yard pass from Eckman to Aaron Henry set Ward up to punch the ball across the goal line.
On first down from the Eagle 7, Ward dove into the end zone at the 7:14 mark to post points for Thayer. Bradley Harper connected on the point-after attempt to give the Bobcats a 7-zip lead.
With Thayer up by seven, Ward was hardly quiet the rest of the quarter.
After some nice carries by Dustin Gaines, the Bobcats were looking at fourth-and-five when Eckman rolled out and hit Ward, who made a one-handed grab for a 14-yard gain, down to the Liberty 6-yard line.
The Cats rewarded Ward for his nice catch by giving him the ball on a little toss, as Eckman juked his way out of harm, for a 6-yard score that came with 20 seconds remaining until the half. Harper booted the PAT to make it 14-0, Thayer, at intermission.
"That's what the no-huddle offense is designed to do," Webber said. "Our's really isn't to hurry things up, but give the other team a different look, and it paid off that time."
It looked as though the third quarter might be a scoreless frame, as the first was, until the Eagles broke through with under 15 seconds to play in the stanza.
After Harper missed wide on a 26-yard field goal attempt, Liberty got their hands on the ball and fashioned a scoring drive that resulted in a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin French to Cody Honeycutt with 13 ticks left in the third. The all-important PAT was blocked, leaving Liberty in a 14-6 hole.
This hole deepened late in the fourth as Thayer tacked on another score.
Harper had a big 12-yard carry on the scoring drive, taking the ball to the Eagles' 36, and Eckman completed a crucial third down with a 5-yard keeper good for a first down to keep the chains moving.
Henry then scampered loose for a 16-yard run, and Eckman capped things off with a touchdown on third-and-goal from the Liberty 2, with 1:43 left in the game. Harper nailed the PAT, and Thayer led 21-6.
The book wasn't closed, however, as the Eagles weren't about to give up so easily at home.
French hit Brandon Bay for a 5-yard touchdown with 57 seconds remaining to pull the Eagles a bit closer. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving Liberty trailing 21-12.
It was a good thing for Thayer that the Eagles' were not successful on their 2-point attempt, as well as the PAT that was blocked earlier in the contest, as Liberty squibbed an on-sides kick that they recovered at the Bobcats' 49.
Trailing by 9 points with less than 40 seconds left, the Eagles needed a pair of scores to overcome Thayer's lead.
Liberty did in fact get a touchdown with seven ticks left on the clock, but it was called back on a holding call, ending the Eagles' threat, as Thayer snapped its two-game losing streak by hanging on to knock off Liberty 21-12.
For their efforts opening holes for Thayer's running game, the offensive line earned offensive player of the game honors, as anounnced by the Bobcat coaching staff.